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The 3 R's principles - Animal Testing

Three R’s – Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

Developed in 1959 these core principles are used in many testing organisations globally for more ethical and humane treatment of animals in animal testing and scientific research.  In many countries, these 3Rs are now explicit in legislation governing animal use.   

In New Zealand, an ethics committee must take the 3Rs into account when considering proposals for research, testing or teaching - 

It is important to remember that animal testing for pharmaceutical and bio technology purposes are NOT considered to be nasties, and much of the information in this (and the next three) blog articles apply to pharmaceutical testing, not just testing on cosmetics, smells, fragrances and foods. 

What are the 3R’s about? 

1.    Replacement – the preferred use of non-animal methods over animal methods wherever possible to achieve the same scientific aim. The term includes absolute replacements (i.e., replacing animals with inanimate systems such as computer programs) as well as relative replacements (i.e., replacing animals such as vertebrates with animals that are lower on the phylogenetic scale).  

Some of the companies that our clients invest in – eg Bieresdorf have been very active in  looking for alternatives to animal testing.  Bieresdorf has committed to research for over 40 years, and in 1992 produced one of the world’s first officially approved tests without animal testing – the 3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Test. Today, the testing under the influence of UV lights is the worldwide standard.

Replacement strategies include:

a.     Tissue culture

b.     Perfused organs

c.      Tissue slices

d.     Cellular fractions

e.     Subcellular fractions

The next three articles in the series will tell you more about the replacement alternatives. 

2.    Reduction – methods that enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals, or to obtain more information from the same number of animals. [ie, to minimise the number of animals used per study.] 

This approach relies on a. analysis of experimental design, b. applications of newer technologies, c.  the use of appropriate statistical methods, and d. control of environmentally related variability in animal housing and study areas.  

These experiment design techniques have become more effective with the use of computer analysis, using large data sets for statistical analysis, which reduces the number of actual animals that need to be analysed. 

Computer analysis can also be used with information gleaned from previous studies, avoiding the use of animals for testing. 

Finally, with modern imaging techniques combined with statistical analysis methods, more information is available per animal – reducing the number of animals that have to be used in the testing. 

3.    Refinement – methods that alleviate or minimise potential pain, suffering or distress and enhance animal welfare for the animals used. 

Refinement techniques may include:

1.     Non-invasive techniques

2.     Appropriate anaesthetic and analgesic regimes for pain relief

3.     Training animals to voluntarily co-operate with procedures (e.g. blood sampling) so that they have greater control over the procedure reduce distress

4.     Provision of species-appropriate housing and environmental enrichment which meet the animals' physical and behavioural needs (e.g. providing opportunities for nesting for rodents). 

What do we do at Moneyworks to help you understand where you are invested?

When we see a company that has been tagged as a ‘nasty’ for animal testing, we visit their webpage and look for a reference to the 3Rs, and/or other statements about their commitment to not undertaking animal testing unless legislatively necessary. 

Here are some examples: 

Beiersdorf (manufacturers of Nivea) -

Unilever (multi-national consumers goods company)

Akzo Nobel (Paints and coatings products)

We provide you with a brief summary in relation to the top 10 companies in your ‘nasties’, but if you would like more information on any companies that come up in your portfolio, don’t hesitate to contact us (we have an extensive database).


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